The Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) are announcing their winners at ceremonies tomorrow night (February 4th) but it almost seems perfunctory. The DGA is the last of the three major guilds (along with SAG and PGA) that guide us to the eventual Best Picture winner and La La Land currently has the PGA under its belt. It wasn’t nominated for SAG’s top category (where Hidden Figures won) but the PGA to Oscar crossover is stronger. The Directors Guild can also be a very good bellwether in the race, although the last five years has seen more Best Picture/Best Director splits than normal. Three of the last five Best Director winners didn’t match up with Best Picture. For the Directors Guild though that number is only 2/5 as Ben Affleck (Argo) won the DGA but was snubbed at the Academy Awards even though his film went on to win the big prize.
This year, the DGA and Oscar match up 4/5. The DGA nominated Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Garth Davis (Lion), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) and Denis Villeneuve (Arrival). The Oscars dropped Davis in favor of previous Best Director Oscar-winner Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Only three times since 2000 has the DGA Best Director not won the Best Director Oscar. One of those times was the previously mentioned Affleck but also Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) lost to Steven Soderbergh (Traffic). Interestingly enough, Lee has won the Best Director Oscar two times since then. Rob Marshall won the DGA for the last musical Best Picture winner, Chicago, only to be bested by Roman Polanski for 2003’s The Pianist.
I am predicting Damien Chazelle to win the DGA for La La Land, which will put him on track to be the youngest Best Director Oscar winner in history.
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The American Society of Cinematographers and the Oscars are a 5/5 matchup this year. They both nominated Linus Sandgren (La La Land), Greig Fraser (Lion), James Laxton (Moonlight), Rodrigo Prieto (Silence) and Bradford Young (Arrival).
Linus Sandgren is the odds-on favorite here and I’m not betting against him for a second even though the correlation of ASC and Oscar is only 50% for the last 16 years. Five of those wins went to one person; Emmanuel Lubezki. He’s won the ASC and Oscar for the last three years in a row so I’m sure the nominated cinematographers this year are glad not to see his named listed.